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Thursday, 14 November 2019 04:26

We Blamed Women For Infertility For Actual Centuries, & Nothing Has Changed

As with the rest of her health picture, women bear the worry, emotional responsibility, and blame for their infertility — a lonely state even in 2019.

A woman who struggles to conceive today will likely be bombarded with data about her body's malfunctions; sympathetic friends blaming tension and telling her to relax; wondering what she did to invite such misfortune.

All of the blame heaped on an involuntarily childless woman is rooted in centuries of superstition and shame.

Throughout recorded history, consensus has been that the inability to conceive is caused by a defect (physical, mental, or moral) in the “barren” woman. Around the 4th century BCE, Hippocrates wrote that infertility was caused by a cervix that is misaligned, too hard, too soft, too open, too closed, or obstructed. Likewise, the uterus might be too wet or dry, the wrong size, too smooth, or disfigured. Or the woman, in toto, may be too fat, thin, wet, dry, or otherwise incompatible with conception.

By the 1800s, not much had changed. Medical advancements gave doctors even more reason to focus on female reproductive anatomy as the cause of infertility.

In addition to faulty anatomy, it was — and still is — believed that a woman’s thoughts could render her infertile.

In shockingly recent history (1873), a Harvard medical doctor claimed that educating young women would lead to infertility by inhibiting the development of the reproductive system.

"Nature has reserved the catamenial week for the process of ovulation, and for the development and perfectation of the reproductive system. Previously to the age of eighteen or twenty, opportunity must be periodically allowed for the accomplishment of this task. Both muscular and brain labor must be remitted enough to yield sufficient force for the work. If the reproductive machinery is not manufactured then, it will not be later. If it is imperfectly made then, it can only be patched up, not made perfect, afterwards. To be well made, it must be carefully managed. Force must be allowed to flow thither in an ample stream, and not diverted to the brain by the school, or to the arms by the factory, or to the feet by dancing." Edward H. Clarke, M.D.

In the 21st century, anxiety is a common scapegoat for failed attempts at pregnancy. Show me a woman who hasn’t been told to “just relax and it will happen,” and I will show you a woman who never had a single conversation about her fertility with anyone.

Women who don't become pregnant have historically been presumed to have weak character, too.

In early modern England, women without children were stereotyped as promiscuous, masculine, and domineering. Nineteenth century French doctors also blamed promiscuity, abortion, and sexually-transmitted disease.

Women trying to conceive are expected to control their diets at the micronutrient level, avoid antagonistic activities, increase “healthy” activities, and keep a pleasant countenance to nurture their precarious fertility.

“Metaphors of ‘barren soil’ and ‘fruitless seed’ were used to cultivate the belief that individual women — situated in this case as farmers — had the ability to monitor every detail of their environments, emotions, and behaviors until their bodies, at long last, sprouted.” Robin E. Jensen, Infertility: Tracing the History of a Transformative Term

While many modern religions have accepted assisted reproduction, some religious groups still oppose reproductive technology. As long as there has been religion, myth, or tradition, women have been expected to please God or gods for divine permission to procreate.

Hopeful women in classical Greece consulted oracles and made offerings to deities. Biblical women were "rewarded" for their piety with pregnancy.

If God gave babies, it was the Devil what took them away.

In the 1400s, the Malleus Maleficarum claimed witches and the devil were to blame for infertility or that women without children were themselves witches.

Desperate to conceive, women consent to repeated expensive and elaborate treatments. Ancient rituals conducted in the name of fertility sound unpleasant at best, nightmarish at worst.

According to an ancient Greek papyrus, a woman's fertility could be determined by having her urinate on a plant. (Sound familiar?)

One of Hippocrates' prescriptions for infertility was to grind lead and magnetic stone, tie the powder in a cloth, dip it in breast milk and insert it in the vagina.

At the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, athletes ran through the streets of Rome, whipping women with the skin of sacrificial goats. The women believed the ritual would make them fertile.

And today, one of the first tests recommended for a woman who is unable to conceive is a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). The sometimes painful procedure requires having iodine solution injected into the uterus while X-rays are taken to detect “blockages” that could prevent conception.

We can't know if women from centuries past felt humiliated by these “treatments” or if they were happily accepted. We do know, though, that the incentive to be cured of infertility was high because they faced harsh social consequences for not bearing children.

In both ancient Greece and Rome, men could divorce women based on their inability to bear children. A divorced woman was very unlikely to remarry and faced a future of financial and social struggle.

As medicine advanced, men started to replace women — midwives and healers — as the primary providers of infertility treatments. The shift in knowledge and power resulted in men disqualifying and disdaining women's work.

In 1962, Donald Robert Johnston, M.D., spoke to the The Canadian Society for the Study of Fertility on "The History of Human Infertility," and his comments reflected a dismissive male perspective on midwifery.

"During the years 1000 to about 1500 A.D. there was a great belief in faith-healing and supernatural power, and obstetrics fell into the hands of midwives and sow-gelders. In England, in 1518, the physicians established a college, but midwifery was very inferior and the midwives were ignorant women, often without edu- cation, who had borne children themselves or watched other women's labors. Relics, charms, and incantations were their stock in trade." Donald Robert Johnston, M.D.

In comments like this, you find the hypocritical belief that women are both ultimately responsible and ultimately powerless over their own reproductive health.

Ancient history scholar Rebecca Fleming spoke at Cornell University in 2010, saying, "Specific action around infertility seems always to engage in some senses with male power and authority. Moreover, a key point about infertility is also born out in the ancient world, which is that whatever the understanding about conception is, however much male failure can be implicated, the drama of infertility is always played out in the woman's body. That is to say, some things don't change."

While amazing reproductive technologies — like IVF, surrogacy, and fertility drugs — have been born in the 20th and 21st centuries, superstitions and the practices of blaming or devaluing infertile women are still very much a part of the journey to conceive.

Shouldering the responsibility for infertility is far from inconsequential to a woman's mental health.

A 2009 Harvard Medical School report cites a study showing that half of women visiting a fertility clinic said infertility "was the most upsetting experience of their lives." Only 15 percent of men in the study had the same feeling.

The Harvard Mental Health Letter states, “Less research has been done on men's reactions to infertility, but they tend to report experiencing less distress than women. However, one study found that men's reactions may depend on whether they or their partners are diagnosed with infertility."

Women aren't the sole source of infertility issues, but for now, and for a long time, they've sure been suffering alone.

Media Contact:
Company name: Delivering Dreams International Surrogacy Agency
Name: Susan Kibler
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel.: +1 908 386 3864
Tel: +380 32 253-7541
Address: PO Box 36, 55 Main Street, Califon, NJ 07830

Join Delivering Dreams’ Facebook group for intended parents considering Ukrainian surrogacy: Intended Parents FB Group.

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A and S
The communication with surrogate is easy and better than what we expected. The updates are provided as scheduled with occasional surprises
The support was great. It was easy on us that the coordination was done by the delivering dreams team while being completely transparent with us on the progress. The communication with the delivering dreams team was always fast, responsive, and easy.
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The team at Delivering Dreams is amazing! Their attention to detail and ability to put your mind at ease while growing your family is like none other. They handled everything for us, and I never once doubted they would help us accomplish our dreams.
Margaret Jones
I’ve known Susan for several years now, and I’ve always been impressed by her attention to her clients’ needs. I’ve known her to work ardently and diligently to solve whatever challenges, no matter how unique, that prevent her clients from completing their families. She is a problem-solver, and she earnestly believes in providing the best options and in making surrogacy opportunities realities: this is not merely a business for Susan. She will help customize the process for your needs and to ...
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Mary Woods
Susan has a keen sense of business and goes to the max to solve her clients’ problems. She is super knowledgeable on business, laws and how things work in surrogacy in general, and specifically on Ukrainian surrogacy. She is an advocate for transparency in a market that’s often opaque and full of hidden risks. I really enjoyed working with Susan. She really pays attention to detail and was always looking out for my best interest above all. Highly recommend!
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Delivering Dreams goes above and beyond what other surrogacy agencies offer. After speaking with Susan, I see how they anticipate every part of the process, down to details that I had never even considered. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! Surrogacy can be really complicated and confusing. What an amazing sense of relief to have a company so dedicated to managing the WHOLE process and taking away as much of the stress as possible.
Kate Varness
I have gotten to know Susan through a group where we are members. I have found her to be a genuine and caring person. Her consideration for others and love of her work with Ukrainian surrogates and parents-to-be are evident in all her decision making. She is passionate about being a force for the greater good and helping where she can. I have been amazed at the way she is able to smoothly navigate the complicated maze of requirements in the surrogacy process. I am happy to give her my highest...
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Rose Anne Barbour Huck
Susan Kibler is kind.  She clearly loves those she works with and loves what she does.  Susan listens deeply and compassionately and can make you laugh all in the space of one conversation.  She is wonderful!  If you are feeling worried, she'll hear you.  If you have questions, she will find answers for you. If you need help, she does her very best to support you.  I feel so fortunate to have found her and imagine you will too.
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Susan has the ability to really connect on a personal level quickly.  I have found her easy to talk to and have been so grateful for her guidance.  She is one of those people who offers so much to her clients.  She sees the big picture and has a heart for the most intimate concerns.  She is highly skilled and able to manage what can certainly be challenging and uncomfortable experiences, making them feel easier.  She will take charge at the perfect times and guide you when you really need her...
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The international surrogacy world is complicated. Susan Kibler knows its ins-and-outs. She knows the people and outfits you can trust and the ones to avoid. She insists on the best for her clients and handles the details so they don't have to worry about them. If you want to take the international surrogacy journey, you can trust Delivering Dreams International Surrogacy Agency to guide you on that path.
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My friend and I had a positive experience working with Susan. Susan is always super responsive and caring. She is very professional, helpful and reliable. My friend has soo much troubles trying having a baby for many years. My friend and her husband were about to give up their dream of having a baby. Susan Kersch Kibler found the way to help. She has unlimited energy, attentive to detail and super efficient. Great to work with!
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Susan is passionate about helping people become families. She is a trustworthy confidant to have on your side.
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Our experience with Delivering Dreams has been overwhelmingly positive. The team seems to be genuinely dedicated to helping us to realize our dream of having a child. The constant communication leading up to the trip and the numerous touch points made us feel comforted in what has been a very challenging and uncomfortable situation. We always had streamlined communication through the group chat and was frequently checked on during our stay.

Under Ukrainian law, surrogacy is a legal affordable option for traditionally married couples to have children using their own embryos, or with either an egg or sperm donor. There must be a medical reason you can’t carry a child. You are also able to participate if you have had 4 unsuccessful IVF attempts.


Under Ukrainian law, surrogacy is a legal affordable option for traditionally married couples to have children using their own embryos, or with either an egg or sperm donor. There must be a medical reason you can’t carry a child. You are also able to participate if you have had 4 unsuccessful IVF attempts.